Special Issue "The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016)"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 June 2017)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Glen A. Hayes

Department of Religion, Bloomfield College, 467 Franklin St, Bloomfield, NJ 07003, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 973-748-9000 ext 236
Interests: history of religion; cognitive science; neuroscience; gender and sexuality; Tantra; Yoga
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Sthaneshwar Timalsina

Religious Studies, College of Arts and Letters, San Diego State University 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 619-594-6650
Interests: Vedic and Tantric traditions; Yogacara philosophy; literary theory; ritual studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue will contain a selection of papers presented at the 2016 meeting of the Society for Tantric Studies in Flagstaff, Arizona, September 23–25. In this three-day conference, scholars from around the world, specializing in different areas and disciplines, came together to share their recent research into Tantric Studies. Although limited to those who participated in the actual meeting, this issue will be of great interest to those interested in the most recent research and methodologies in Asian studies, Yoga, Tantra, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, History of Religions, Anthropology, Gender Studies, Embodiment, Philosophy, Cognitive Science, Ritual Studies, Traditional Medicine, and other areas.

Prof. Dr. Glen A. Hayes
Prof. Dr. Sthaneshwar Timalsina
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • Tantra
  • Yoga
  • India
  • Assam
  • China
  • Tibet
  • Japan
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • Jainism
  • History of Religion
  • Cognitive Science
  • Anthropology
  • Magic
  • Ritual
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Embodiment
  • Medicine

Published Papers (13 papers)

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Research

Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Kuṇḍalinī Rising and Liberation in the Yogavāsiṣṭha: The Story of Cūḍālā and Śikhidhvaja
Religions 2017, 8(11), 248; doi:10.3390/rel8110248
Received: 4 September 2017 / Revised: 15 October 2017 / Accepted: 10 November 2017 / Published: 14 November 2017
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Abstract
Various Śaiva Tantric elements have been identified in the Yogavāsiṣṭha, but little has been written about the role of kuṇḍalinī rising in relation to this text’s notion of living liberation (jīvanmukti). The story of Cūḍālā and Śikhidhvaja is relevant to
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Various Śaiva Tantric elements have been identified in the Yogavāsiṣṭha, but little has been written about the role of kuṇḍalinī rising in relation to this text’s notion of living liberation (jīvanmukti). The story of Cūḍālā and Śikhidhvaja is relevant to examine in Tantric studies not only because it includes one of the few descriptions within Sanskrit literature of a kuṇḍalinī experience as explicitly pertaining to a woman, but also because it offers key elements of comparison between experiences of enlightenment: one including kuṇḍalinī rising (Cūḍālā) and another one without it (Śikhidhvaja). This paper compares Cūḍālā’s experience of enlightenment with that of Śikhidhvaja’s in order to understand what role kuṇḍalinī rising plays in the pursuit for liberation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Recognizing Recognition: Utpaladeva’s Defense of Śakti in His “Proof of Relation” (Sambandhasiddhi)
Religions 2017, 8(11), 243; doi:10.3390/rel8110243
Received: 8 August 2017 / Revised: 16 October 2017 / Accepted: 25 October 2017 / Published: 1 November 2017
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Abstract
Though one of many possible interpretive orientations, Utpaladeva’s short work, “The Proof of Relation”, may be profitably read in terms of the intention to reveal Śiva via an exposition of His śaktis. This intention, as declared by the author himself in his
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Though one of many possible interpretive orientations, Utpaladeva’s short work, “The Proof of Relation”, may be profitably read in terms of the intention to reveal Śiva via an exposition of His śaktis. This intention, as declared by the author himself in his much more widely studied Verses on the Recognition of the Lord, if carried over into the “Proof of Relation”, does much to account for Utpaladeva’s intention in the latter text, which, although written to convey a rational argument across sectarian lines, may also be read as an exposition of the opening verses of benediction. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessArticle Tantric Yoga in the Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa of Hinduism and the Jñānārṇava of Jainism
Religions 2017, 8(11), 235; doi:10.3390/rel8110235
Received: 10 August 2017 / Revised: 11 October 2017 / Accepted: 11 October 2017 / Published: 26 October 2017
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Abstract
This paper explores the Markaṇḍeya Purāṇa, one of the earliest expositions of what become Tantric themes in Hinduism, and the Jñānārṇava, which provides an early template for the practice of Jaina Tantra. The former text follows the traditional mapping of the five elements
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This paper explores the Markaṇḍeya Purāṇa, one of the earliest expositions of what become Tantric themes in Hinduism, and the Jñānārṇava, which provides an early template for the practice of Jaina Tantra. The former text follows the traditional mapping of the five elements and correlative senses, linking earth to smell, water to taste, fire to form, air to touch, and space to hearing, in a sequence of ascent. In contrast, the Jaina practice relates earthy, lotus-like material to the earth, to be incinerated by fire, stirring up strong winds that involve vigorous breathing that bring pounding rains, washing away all karmic impurity and its residues, exposing one’s true nature as a distinct liberated soul. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle On Not Understanding Extraordinary Language in the Buddhist Tantra of Japan
Religions 2017, 8(10), 223; doi:10.3390/rel8100223
Received: 28 August 2017 / Revised: 1 October 2017 / Accepted: 6 October 2017 / Published: 11 October 2017
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Abstract
The question motivating this essay is how tantric Buddhist practitioners in Japan understood language such as to believe that mantra, dhāraṇī, and related forms are efficacious. “Extraordinary language” is introduced as a cover term for these several similar language uses found in
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The question motivating this essay is how tantric Buddhist practitioners in Japan understood language such as to believe that mantra, dhāraṇī, and related forms are efficacious. “Extraordinary language” is introduced as a cover term for these several similar language uses found in tantric Buddhist practices in Japan. The essay proceeds to a critical examination of Anglo-American philosophy of language to determine whether the concepts, categories, and concerns of that field can contribute to the analysis and understanding of extraordinary language. However, that philosophy of language does not contribute to this analysis, as it is constrained by its continuing focus on its founding concepts, dating particularly from the work of Frege. Comparing it to Indic thought regarding language reveals a distinct mismatch, further indicating the limiting character of the philosophy of language. The analysis then turns to examine two other explanations of tantric language use found in religious studies literature: magical language and performative language. These also, however, prove to be unhelpful. While the essay is primarily critical, one candidate for future constructive study is historical pragmatics, as suggested by Ronald Davidson. The central place of extraordinary language indicates that Indic reflections on the nature of language informed tantric Buddhist practice in Japan and are not simply cultural baggage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessArticle The Dead Speak: A Case Study from the Tiwa Tribe Highlighting the Hybrid World of Śākta Tantra in Assam
Religions 2017, 8(10), 221; doi:10.3390/rel8100221
Received: 5 July 2017 / Revised: 20 September 2017 / Accepted: 25 September 2017 / Published: 11 October 2017
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Abstract
In this paper, we shall examine how possession is understood in Assam, India. We are aware that the larger northeastern frontier of India retained indigenous practices, religious festivals, and beliefs in a plethora of exotic goddesses, rituals, which have continued unabated through modern
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In this paper, we shall examine how possession is understood in Assam, India. We are aware that the larger northeastern frontier of India retained indigenous practices, religious festivals, and beliefs in a plethora of exotic goddesses, rituals, which have continued unabated through modern times. This has resulted in cross-pollination between the Vedic or traditional Brahmanical or orthodox Hindu practices and the indigenous practices, which in turn has yielded a hybrid world of Śākta Tantra rituals and practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
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Open AccessArticle Reinscribing the Goddess into the Culturally Relative Minutiae of Tantric Texts and Practices: A Perennialist Response to Tantric Visual Culture
Religions 2017, 8(10), 217; doi:10.3390/rel8100217
Received: 27 July 2017 / Revised: 30 September 2017 / Accepted: 1 October 2017 / Published: 3 October 2017
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Abstract
A celebration and critical evaluation of Sthaneshwar Timalsina’s brilliant book, Tantric Visual Culture: A Cognitive Approach. In this groundbreaking work, Timalsina utilizes the lens of cognitive studies to shed interpretive light on the Tantric visualization practices that he knows both as a
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A celebration and critical evaluation of Sthaneshwar Timalsina’s brilliant book, Tantric Visual Culture: A Cognitive Approach. In this groundbreaking work, Timalsina utilizes the lens of cognitive studies to shed interpretive light on the Tantric visualization practices that he knows both as a scholar and lifetime practitioner. Timalsina argues that mastery of Tantric practice requires immersion in the culturally relative metonymic and holographic logic framed by the Tantric ritual texts. The conclusion that arises from his analysis is that Tantric “truths” are bound to the linguistic and cultural systems that frame them. In response, I herewith offer a perennialist critique and argument for a more nuanced consideration of the transcendent “truth” or “being” that is the stated aim of Tantric practice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle The Cross-Cultural Kingship in Early Medieval Kāmarūpa: Blood, Desire and Magic
Religions 2017, 8(10), 212; doi:10.3390/rel8100212
Received: 30 June 2017 / Revised: 31 August 2017 / Accepted: 25 September 2017 / Published: 29 September 2017
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Abstract
Kingship in early medieval Kāmarūpa (Assam) was influenced by the collision of orthodox and heterodox Brahmanic traditions with various tribal cultures. Since the last part of the Śālastambha period (seventh–tenth century) the royal tutelary deity of Kāmarūpa was the menstruating Kāmākhyā, an ancient
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Kingship in early medieval Kāmarūpa (Assam) was influenced by the collision of orthodox and heterodox Brahmanic traditions with various tribal cultures. Since the last part of the Śālastambha period (seventh–tenth century) the royal tutelary deity of Kāmarūpa was the menstruating Kāmākhyā, an ancient kirāta goddess. According to the Puranic tradition, the cult of Kāmākhyā was absorbed within Hindu religious folds by the mytho-historical king Naraka of Kāmarūpa. According to textual and epigraphic records, Naraka was conceived by Pṛthvī (Earth goddess) during her menstrual period, through a sexual intercourse with varāha (boar form of Viṣṇu). All early medieval dynasties of Kāmarūpa traced back their origins to Naraka, connecting their lines to the divine power but also to the menstrual blood—a substance considered extremely impure though powerful in Vedic and post-Vedic traditions. The king operated as a cross-cultural mediator: he was the only actor who was able to harness the produced polluted forces, through the Tantric rituals, in order to strengthen the political power. Thence, this essay aims to demonstrate, through inter- and intra-textual evidences, epigraphic records, and ethnographic data, that in Assam throughout the early medieval ages, the kingship grounded its roots in an osmotic cross-cultural process which was influenced by tribal traditions and orthodox and heterodox Hindu sects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessArticle Piercing to the Pith of the Body: The Evolution of Body Mandala and Tantric Corporeality in Tibet
Religions 2017, 8(9), 189; doi:10.3390/rel8090189
Received: 20 June 2017 / Revised: 20 August 2017 / Accepted: 5 September 2017 / Published: 18 September 2017
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Abstract
Buddhist tantric practitioners embrace the liminal status of the human body to manifest divine identity. In piercing to the pith of human embodiment, the tantric practitioner reconfigures the shape and contours of his/her reality. This article investigates the evolution of one particular technique
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Buddhist tantric practitioners embrace the liminal status of the human body to manifest divine identity. In piercing to the pith of human embodiment, the tantric practitioner reconfigures the shape and contours of his/her reality. This article investigates the evolution of one particular technique for piercing to the pith of the body on Tibetan soil, a ritual practice known as body mandala [lus dkyil Skt. deha-maṇḍala]. In particular, it uncovers a significant shift of emphasis in the application of the Guhyasamāja body mandala practice initiated by champions of the emerging Gandenpa [Dga’ ldan pa] or Gelukpa [Dge lugs pa] tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsongkhapa (1357–1419) and Mkhas grub rje (1385–1438). This article reveals some of the radical implications of ritual exegesis, ranging from the socioreligious aspects of securing prestige for a tradition to the ultimate soteriological goals of modifying the boundaries between life and death and ordinary and enlightened embodiment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Magicians, Sorcerers and Witches: Considering Pretantric, Non-sectarian Sources of Tantric Practices
Religions 2017, 8(9), 188; doi:10.3390/rel8090188
Received: 27 June 2017 / Revised: 21 August 2017 / Accepted: 23 August 2017 / Published: 13 September 2017
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Abstract
Most models on the origins of tantrism have been either inattentive to or dismissive of non-literate, non-sectarian ritual systems. Groups of magicians, sorcerers or witches operated in India since before the advent of tantrism and continued to perform ritual, entertainment and curative functions
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Most models on the origins of tantrism have been either inattentive to or dismissive of non-literate, non-sectarian ritual systems. Groups of magicians, sorcerers or witches operated in India since before the advent of tantrism and continued to perform ritual, entertainment and curative functions down to the present. There is no evidence that they were tantric in any significant way, and it is not clear that they were concerned with any of the liberation ideologies that are a hallmark of the sectarian systems, even while they had their own separate identities and specific divinities. This paper provides evidence for the durability of these systems and their continuation as sources for some of the ritual and nomenclature of the sectarian tantric traditions, including the predisposition to ritual creativity and bricolage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessArticle Where the Heroes and Sky-Goers Gather: A Study of the Sauraṭa Pilgrimage
Religions 2017, 8(8), 157; doi:10.3390/rel8080157
Received: 3 July 2017 / Revised: 14 August 2017 / Accepted: 16 August 2017 / Published: 21 August 2017
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Abstract
Tibetan and Himālayan Buddhist doctrine and meditative traditions have been extensively studied and are well-known even to non-scholars, but pilgrimage and other non-elite practices have received far less attention. Pilgrimage is one of the most important practices for Tibetan and Himālayan Buddhists, whether
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Tibetan and Himālayan Buddhist doctrine and meditative traditions have been extensively studied and are well-known even to non-scholars, but pilgrimage and other non-elite practices have received far less attention. Pilgrimage is one of the most important practices for Tibetan and Himālayan Buddhists, whether traditional scholars, ordinary monks, lay yogis, or Buddhist laypeople. Scholarship on pilgrimage has increased significantly since the 1990s, and has tended to focus on territories within the political boundaries of the Tibetan provinces of the People’s Republic of China. This study looks at a pilgrimage in what was once the far western end of the Tibetan empire, but is now within the political boundaries of India. Being outside of the People’s Republic of China, this pilgrimage escaped the disruption of such practices that occurred within the PRC during the Cultural Revolution and after. Having interviewed people in the region, and performed the pilgrimage myself, this study shows that this pilgrimage possesses features common to Tibetan pilgrimage to sites of tantric power, but also has its own unique qualities. This study provides new data that contributes to the growing body of knowledge of Tibetan pilgrimage and to our understanding of such practices among the Buddhists of Himālayan India. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Somatic Energies and Emotional Traumas: A Qualitative Study of Practice-Related Challenges Reported by Vajrayāna Buddhists
Religions 2017, 8(8), 153; doi:10.3390/rel8080153
Received: 23 June 2017 / Revised: 8 August 2017 / Accepted: 15 August 2017 / Published: 18 August 2017
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Abstract
A qualitative study of Western practitioners of Buddhist meditation investigated unexpected, challenging, difficult, and distressing experiences. This paper reports on a subset of 12 practitioners within Tibetan Vajrayāna lineages who described energy flowing through their body, knots of pain, pressure or tension, and/or
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A qualitative study of Western practitioners of Buddhist meditation investigated unexpected, challenging, difficult, and distressing experiences. This paper reports on a subset of 12 practitioners within Tibetan Vajrayāna lineages who described energy flowing through their body, knots of pain, pressure or tension, and/or concurrent emotional changes. In some cases, somatic changes were appraised as practice-related transient states, and in other cases practitioners were given a Tibetan medical diagnosis of rlung disorder. Releases of tension in the body or subtle body also sometimes coincided with an upwelling of emotionally charged content. Practitioners reported emotional upwelling during subtle body practices as well as during other Vajrayāna practices, such as visualizations. While some practitioners viewed these experiences in relation to a normative Tantric soteriology of purification, almost all practitioners with a trauma history reported traumatic re-experiencing and tended not to adopt a purification framework. These practitioners were also more likely to seek additional psychotherapeutic or medical treatment to help resolve their practice-related challenges. The manner in which somatic and affective experiences manifest, how they are appraised, and how they affect the practitioner’s ability to engage in the Vajrayāna path depends upon many individual, interpersonal, and cultural factors. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Can Tantra Make a Mātā Middle-Class?: Jogaṇī Mātā, a Uniquely Gujarati Chinnamastā
Religions 2017, 8(8), 142; doi:10.3390/rel8080142
Received: 30 June 2017 / Revised: 28 July 2017 / Accepted: 2 August 2017 / Published: 8 August 2017
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Abstract
The Gujarati mātās, village goddesses traditionally popular among scheduled castes and often worshipped through rites of possession and animal sacrifice, have recently acquired Sanskritic Tantric resonances. The contemporary iconography of the goddess Jogaṇī Mātā, for instance, is virtually identical to that of
[...] Read more.
The Gujarati mātās, village goddesses traditionally popular among scheduled castes and often worshipped through rites of possession and animal sacrifice, have recently acquired Sanskritic Tantric resonances. The contemporary iconography of the goddess Jogaṇī Mātā, for instance, is virtually identical to that of the Mahāvidyā Chinnamastā. Yantra and mantra also feature prominently in Jogaṇī worship, which has begun to attract upwardly mobile urban middle-class devotees. Drawing on ethnography from three Jogaṇī sites in and around Ahmedabad, this paper identifies a tendency among worshippers and pūjārīs to acknowledge Jogaṇī’s tantric associations only to the extent that they instantiate a safe, Sanskritic, and Brahmanically-oriented Tantra. The appeal of these temples and shrines nonetheless remains the immediacy with which Jogaṇī can solve problems that are this-worldly, reminiscent of the link identified by Philip Lutgendorf between Tantra and modern Indians’ desire for ‘quick-fix’ religion. This research not only documents a rare regional iteration of Chinnamastā, but also speaks to the cachet that Tantra increasingly wields, consciously or unconsciously, within the burgeoning Gujarati and Indian urban middle-classes. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
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Open AccessArticle Studies on Bhartṛhari and the Pratyabhijñā: The Case of svasavedana
Religions 2017, 8(8), 145; doi:10.3390/rel8080145
Received: 30 June 2017 / Revised: 31 July 2017 / Accepted: 2 August 2017 / Published: 7 August 2017
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Abstract
The article addresses a critical problem in the history of South Asian philosophy, namely the nature of the ‘knowledge of knowledge’ (svasaṃvedana). In particular, it investigates how the Śaiva tantric school of the Pratyabhijñā (10th–11th c. CE) used the notion as an argument
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The article addresses a critical problem in the history of South Asian philosophy, namely the nature of the ‘knowledge of knowledge’ (svasaṃvedana). In particular, it investigates how the Śaiva tantric school of the Pratyabhijñā (10th–11th c. CE) used the notion as an argument against the Buddhists’ ideas on the nature of the self. The paper then considers the possibility that the source of the Śaivas’ discussion was the work of the philosopher/grammarian Bhartṛhari (5th c. CE). Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2016))
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